Seahawks Using Wait and See Approach Naming Replacement for Injured D.J. Fluker

Corbin Smith

As preparation for Sunday’s Week 6 tilt in Cleveland ramps up, it’s becoming increasingly likely the Seahawks will be without the services of starting right guard D.J. Fluker.

Fluker, who exited last Thursday’s 30-29 win over the Rams during the first half with a hamstring injury, didn’t practice on Wednesday. According to coach Pete Carroll, his chances of returning in time to play against the Browns are slim at best, as he’s simply “not ready to go.”

Unfortunately, Seattle already has plenty of experience playing without Fluker, who missed six games during the 2018 season with a myriad of injuries. Jordan Simmons stepped up to the plate and performed admirably in his absence, but he won’t be an option this time around, as he landed on injured reserve in August.

With Sunday’s game approaching quickly, Carroll refused to name a replacement for Fluker, telling reporters on Wednesday they’ll have to “wait and see.” But even without Simmons available, the Seahawks do have some serviceable alternatives to choose from.

When Fluker went down on Thursday, Seattle surprisingly threw Jamarco Jones into the lineup at right guard, a position he had never played in a game at any level of football. Such a scenario usually sets a player up for failure, but the second year tackle out of Ohio State thrived, yielding a 95 percent pass blocking win rate per ESPN Stats and Info.

“He did really well.” Carroll said following the game. “I was shocked that it was so smooth for him to move to the right side and play guard when there’s no background of it other than in practice.”

After excelling in an adverse situation against one of the best defensive lines in the league, it would seem foolish not to reward him with his first career NFL start. But given his lack of experience at the position, the Seahawks are going to keep all options on the table.

There’s a chance versatile reserve Ethan Pocic, who has been dealing with a back injury for several weeks, could be available to return after missing Seattle’s past three games. He started in place of left guard Mike Iupati in the season opener in Cincinnati and also spelled Fluker in Week 2 when he suffered an ankle sprain.

Backup center Joey Hunt has also played a few game snaps at guard in his career, though he’s as much of a novice at the position as Jones and doesn’t have the typical size line coach Mike Solari prefers. With that said, he’s trusted by the coaching staff and could play there in a pinch if called upon.

Set to face a talented Browns defensive line featuring former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and criminally underrated third-year defender Larry Ogunjobi, the Seahawks interior line will be tested in a tough road environment regardless of who the staff chooses to fill in for Fluker.

If Pocic is fully healthy and ready to return, Seattle may choose to go the experienced route. But if he’s not quite there yet, which his limited practice designation on Wednesday indicates, look for Jones to get the well-deserved starting nod even if Carroll isn’t ready to give away such precious information.